A sober person who can tolerate the urge to speak, the mind’s demands, the actions of anger and the urges of the tongue, belly and genitals is qualified to make disciples all over the world.
In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (6.1.9–10) Parīkṣit Mahārāja placed a number of intelligent questions before Śukadeva Gosvāmī. One of these questions was: “Why do people undergo atonement if they cannot control their senses?” For instance, a thief may know perfectly well that he may be arrested for his stealing, and he may actually even see a thief arrested by the police, yet he continues to steal. Experience is gathered by hearing and seeing. One who is less intelligent gathers experience by seeing, and one who is more intelligent gathers experience by hearing. When an intelligent person hears from the lawbooks and śāstras, or scriptures, that stealing is not good and hears that a thief is punished when arrested, he refrains from theft. A less intelligent person may first have to be arrested and punished for stealing to learn to stop stealing. However, a rascal, a foolish man, may have the experience of both hearing and seeing and may even be punished, but still he continues to steal. Even if such a person atones and is punished by the government, he will again commit theft as soon as he comes out of jail. If punishment in jail is considered atonement, what is the benefit of such atonement? Thus Parīkṣit Mahārāja inquired:
dṛṣṭa-śrutābhyāṁ yat pāpaṁ
jānann apy ātmano ’hitam
karoti bhūyo vivaśaḥ
prāyaścittam atho katham
kvacin nivartate ’bhadrāt
kvacic carati tat punaḥ
prāyaścittam atho ’pārthaṁ
He compared atonement to an elephant’s bathing. The elephant may take a very nice bath in the river, but as soon as it comes onto the bank, it throws dirt all over its body. What, then, is the value of its bathing? Similarly, many spiritual practitioners chant the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra and at the same time commit many forbidden things, thinking that their chanting will counteract their offenses. Of the ten types of offenses one can commit while chanting the holy name of the Lord, this offense is called nāmno balād yasya hi pāpa-buddhiḥ, committing sinful activities on the strength of chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra. Similarly, certain Christians go to church to confess their sins, thinking that confessing their sins before a priest and performing some penance will relieve them from the results of their weekly sins. As soon as Saturday is over and Sunday comes, they again begin their sinful activities, expecting to be forgiven the next Saturday. This kind of prāyaścitta, or atonement, is condemned by Parīkṣit Mahārāja, the most intelligent king of his time. Śukadeva Gosvāmī, equally intelligent, as befitting the spiritual master of Mahārāja Parīkṣit, answered the King and confirmed that his statement concerning atonement was correct. A sinful activity cannot be counteracted by a pious activity. Thus real prāyaścitta, atonement, is the awakening of our dormant Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
Real atonement involves coming to real knowledge, and for this there is a standard process. When one follows a regulated hygienic process, he does not fall sick. A human being is meant to be trained according to certain principles to revive his original knowledge. Such a methodical life is described as tapasya. One can be gradually elevated to the standard of real knowledge, or Kṛṣṇa consciousness, by practicing austerity and celibacy (brahmacarya), by controlling the mind, by controlling the senses, by giving up one’s possessions in charity, by being avowedly truthful, by keeping clean and by practicing yoga-āsanas. However, if one is fortunate enough to get the association of a pure devotee, he can easily surpass all the practices for controlling the mind by the mystic yoga process simply by following the regulative principles of Kṛṣṇa consciousness – refraining from illicit sex, meat-eating, intoxication and gambling – and by engaging in the service of the Supreme Lord under the direction of the bona fide spiritual master. This easy process is being recommended by Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī.
First one must control his speaking power. Every one of us has the power of speech; as soon as we get an opportunity we begin to speak. If we do not speak about Kṛṣṇa consciousness, we speak about all sorts of nonsense. A toad in a field speaks by croaking, and similarly everyone who has a tongue wants to speak, even if all he has to say is nonsense. The croaking of the toad, however, simply invites the snake: “Please come here and eat me.” Nevertheless, although it is inviting death, the toad goes on croaking. The talking of materialistic men and impersonalist Māyāvādī philosophers may be compared to the croaking of frogs. They are always speaking nonsense and thus inviting death to catch them. Controlling speech, however, does not mean self-imposed silence (the external process of mauna), as Māyāvādī philosophers think. Silence may appear helpful for some time, but ultimately it proves a failure. The meaning of controlled speech conveyed by Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī advocates the positive process of kṛṣṇa-kathā, engaging the speaking process in glorifying the Supreme Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa. The tongue can thus glorify the name, form, qualities and pastimes of the Lord. The preacher of kṛṣṇa-kathā is always beyond the clutches of death. This is the significance of controlling the urge to speak.
The restlessness or fickleness of the mind (mano-vega) is controlled when one can fix his mind on the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa. The Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya 22.31) says:
kṛṣṇa – sūrya-sama; māyā haya andhakāra
yāhāṅ kṛṣṇa, tāhāṅ nāhi māyāra adhikāra
Kṛṣṇa is just like the sun, and māyā is just like darkness. If the sun is present, there is no question of darkness. Similarly, if Kṛṣṇa is present in the mind, there is no possibility of the mind’s being agitated by māyā’s influence. The yogic process of negating all material thoughts will not help. To try to create a vacuum in the mind is artificial. The vacuum will not remain. However, if one always thinks of Kṛṣṇa and how to serve Kṛṣṇa best, one’s mind will naturally be controlled.